Tova O'Brien on London attack: Refusing to name terrorists won't stop them

AM Show host Duncan Garner strongly believes we shouldn't name terrorists like London attacker Khalid Masood, saying it glorifies them. Newshub's Europe correspondent Tova O'Brien disagrees.

OPINION: Khalid Masood is a name we should take time to understand. 

A 52-year-old criminal, convicted of a raft of assault offences from weapon possession and public order offences to grievous bodily harm. 

He was known to intelligence agents, he was known to police. He'd never been convicted of a terrorist offence.

Then, Masood killed four people in London and injured dozens more, in the first terror attack in Britain to be claimed by Islamic State.

The dead:

  • Keith Palmer, a police officer, father and husband whom the British Prime Minister described as "every inch a hero"
  • Aysha Frade, a beloved mother of two daughters and Spanish teacher, killed doing the school run
  • Kurt Cochran, an American tourist celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife Melissa, who was injured in the attack
  • And most recently a 75-year-old man, being treated for his injuries, whose life support has now been turned off. 

Those are names and people that should be reflected on, honoured and remembered.

We can't undo the devastating damage Masood has caused, the trauma and tragedy to so many families.

But the more we try to understand, the more we learn, the more hope we have of identifying it in others, possibly reporting it, possibly preventing another attack. 

When you read or hear the name of a terrorist do you praise them, hoping they'll be bestowed the martyr's rewards of free-flowing wine, honey and marriage to 72 dark-eyed virgins?

No, of course you don't. You condemn them. 

Islamic State only really came to our attention in 2014. The threat it presented was terrifying - graphic beheadings, burning people alive in cages, throwing people from buildings. 

The world was aghast. Political leaders talked endlessly about the group's unpredictability, its use of propaganda and social media - and most worryingly, the growing trend of lone wolf attacks. 

There's fear in the unknown and IS, ISIL, ISIS, Daesh - these were unknowns. 

So we learnt. We learnt about motives, we learnt methods, the political structures of the so-called caliphate, how it financed itself, how it communicated and promoted its propaganda.

The more information we were armed with, the better equipped the world was to understand IS and the better equipped it became to combat it. 

That applies to those at the top and to those at the very, very bottom like Khalid Masood.

I agree with Duncan and the listener who drew the comparison with reporting restrictions on suicide. It's incongruous - where is the logic in that? I believe suicide is also something we should try to better understand and something we should talk more about - pretending it doesn't exist achieves nothing. 

Yes, terrorists are monsters and they are cowards but they are not faceless. Pretending monsters don't exist doesn't make them go away.

Tova O'Brien is Newshub's Europe correspondent.